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Established in 1905; in Hong Kong since 1978.
Venerable Thecla Merlo
night of 31 December 1900 and felt obliged “to do something for God and for the people of the new century.”
Our founder Blessed James Alberione
Fr James Alberione encountered the Lord in the
Eucharistic adoration on the
Fr. Timothy Giaccardo
Some of you have met us and know us, and you have seen what we do in Hong Kong for our mission. But it was not like that at the beginning, a hundred years ago. But God’s ways are so strange and fascinating, so we want to take you back a century ago to see what life was like for the first Daughters of St Paul.
The Founder was Blessed Father James Alberione, an Italian priest from Alba, north Italy. He was called THE THEOLOGIAN by his young followers. He was indeed a man of God, and among the early ones to be a theologian. The story of their faith in God and complete trust in Fr Alberione is very inspiring and heart warming. We need this kind of faith today more than ever before.
THE DAUGHTERS OF ST PAUL
The Daughters of St Paul had an even more humble and hidden beginning than the Society of St Paul. They too were born without a name, without a home, and without anyone taking notice of them. The grain of wheat is one of the smallest grain…..
(UCBS, 21 June 1923, p. 8)
In order to do that work….for the military, some girls were accepted and were given a salary according to the amount of sewing they did.
The initial nucleus of the Daughters of St Paul was composed of three women who were seen at work and at Mass, but who were not living a common life because they did not yet have a house in which to live. Every day they came to the workshop and returned to their own home afterward. All three were from Alba. They taught the younger girls and managed the work in the shop. One of them was Miss Angelina Boffi, a young woman who already had some experience of life and had also suffered much sorrow. She was an employee of the Calissano Company in Alba. In the morning she worked in the office, and in the afternoon she went to the Workshop. She saw the birth of the Insitute and was in the House for seven years.
The other two young women also nourished the intention and desire to become part of the House that was about to be born. One did not enter; the other stayed for eight months, and now, outside the Institute, carries out a very effective and delicate apostolate for women.
Meanwhile the Lord spoke to hearts and helped others to understand what he
had in mind for the newborn Institute, even though this was not visible. At the
end of the month another young woman who wanted to become a Sister of the
Good Press came to join the first ones. She was young Teresa Merlo, whom
the Daughters of St Paul call “Thecla,” and who is now the head of the whole
Family, adults and children.
Her memories of those first days make a very favourable impression:
“When I met the Theologian for the first time, he told me about a new institute
for women who would live as Sisters, but who for now would sew shirts for the
soldiers. I was immediately filled with enthusiasm.” Since the group did not yet
have a house, Teresa stayed with the Boffis. For more than a month, the fledgling
“daughters” spent their days amidst heaps of shirts and the hum of sewing machines. Since they were working in the room that had been vacated by the boys of the Typographical School, they could not help thinking and sometimes saying to themselves: “Who knows when we too will be able to start printing?” But their speculations went no further than that. The Lord does not rush things. A tiny, unnoticed trickle of water can become a mighty river.
There are elements in the beginning of a House that are more important than its mission, namely: humility and spirit. God competently guides the person who offers him no resistance. He does not cause his projects to be born already matured. As for the rest, what was important for the first Daughters of St Paul, as it still is today, was that they bring the stone and lime (needed) for the construction of their house; that they provide God with the elements suitable for establishing and beginning the Institute and its work.
(UCBS, 20 July 1923, p.16)
The first Daughters of St Paul were without a house for a month. In the meantime they concentrated their attention on forming their spirit. As a religious vocation, woman’s call to work with the good press is something new, God had to create everything.
Every morning the young women went to St Damian Church for Mass and communion. Canon Chiesa, the pastor of St Damian’s, guided a meditation for the four young women each morning. In the afternoon, they made the Visit to the Blessed Sacrament. Once a week, the Theologian Alberione gave them a talk, providing them with guidance. Thus their spirit was born: God created it and made it grow.
Their work however remained unchanged. Since responsibility for the House rested upon the Theologian, the young women sought him out continually during the day concerning the shirts they were sewing for the military. Thus, in addition to being Spiritual Director to the seminarians and having to look after the welfare of the new sons entrusted to him by the Lord, he also had to find the time to worry about shirts.
In the meantime the Lord provided the young women with a house: a rented apartment in which they could combine their living quarters and workshop (a wise choice) located on Via Accademia, n. 4. The Daughters moved in and remained there for three years. The place was quite large, and work could be started according to the spirit of the new House. This beginning marked a second historic date for the apostolate of the Daughters of St Paul, which at that time continued to be called the Feminine Workshop.
Their new work was a small shop that sold books and religious objects; they called it the New Book Shop. This shop was successful; it was the beginning of the apostolate for the Daughters -
(SP, August 1923, pp. 17 – 18)
In September 1915, Clelia Calliano joined the group. She was a young woman bursting with health and overflowing with goodness, simplicity and innocence. She was assigned to look after the kitchen of the Typographical School and to also help Mrs. Boffi with the housekeeping. She remained for three years with the sisters who were involved in more direct mission work and then flew to heaven on the eve of the day on which the Daughters of St. Paul were to dedicate themselves more decisively to the direct apostolate of the Good Press. Clelia was the first flower, the first fruit that matured among the Daughters of St. Paul and that was offered to God. She was the first seed that took root and that seed yielded abundantly.
The Theologian Alberione took more direct care of the new group of young women that Divine Providence was creating. In the early hours of the morning he would leave home to preach a meditation for the young women. Afterward he went to the seminary for the morning liturgical functions of the clerics.
Meanwhile the young women had stopped sewing for the military but their Workshop continued. Girls who wanted to learn how to sew were accepted and now, looking back after a number of years, one sees and understands better the wisdom and the providential goodness of certain decisions, of many steps which at first seemed unsure and which were perhaps taken with less fervor. But the young women who continued with faith were fortunate and sang of victory.
All the Daughters of St. Paul were at that time associated with the Catechetical League of St. Damian Church. They attended the catechetical classes taught by Canon Chiesa. They took the examinations necessary to receive their certificates as catechism teachers and they taught catechism to the children of the parish. In this way they moved toward their goal, and it was through these means that God worked to form the new missionaries of the Good Press.
Together with the catechists of St. Damian Church, they participated in the Sunday functions, made monthly retreats and an annual course of spiritual exercises.
They then became involved in another work – the beginning of what the Daughters are now doing, namely: folding and sewing catechisms. The Typographical School published these catechisms in large quantities so as to give them to parish priests at a reduced price. The young women dedicated as much time as possible to folding, sewing, and packaging these texts.
The sacred doctrine of Jesus, whose typographical preparation was seasoned with oral and vital prayer and enriched with graces, was then shipped out.
(SP, 22 September 1923, p.20)
(To be continued)
On 15 June 1915, a year after the Little Workers Typographical School was opened, the Institute of the Daughters of St Paul was begun. At that time it was called the Feminine Workshop.
The Theologian’s idea was precise, his path sure. But those who looked at the new religious family from the outside were not able to understand the guiding idea. The Daughters of St Paul came into being so that they might dedicate their lives to the Good Press, but at that time they had no printing press, and they began their life by sewing shirts and pants for the military suppliers… Upon seeing this Institute, the narrow-
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